Brewing at Home: Espresso & Filter Coffee


Always wanted to start making your own coffee at home but not sure where to start? There are lots of posts out there about this but what I’m going to share here is customized for a few common scenarios and contexts, especially for my Malaysian friends. I decided to put this in writing because there are many people who want good coffee at home, but expectation and reality is very different. Many expect to have a cup of latte at home easily, and to their dismay, they end up in disappointment.

Methods to make coffee

Generally speaking, there are 2 major methods to make coffee: espresso or filter. I am simplifying this a bit, there are of course more methods like immersion, Turkish, kopitiam style, and more. But let’s leave those for another topic. Espresso is made by forcing hot water under high pressure through finely ground coffee, usually using an espresso machine. The cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites and Americanos you get in your favourite cafes are made by mixing an espresso shot with steamed milk or water.

Filter Coffee (or pour over / drip coffee), on the other end, is made by pouring hot water over a bed of medium-fine to medium ground coffee, using a filter paper and a dripper. The common drippers used are v60, kalita wave, chemex and Melitta dripper. (Clever dripper is also a famous one but it’s a hybrid of immersion and filter method)


EspressoFilter Coffee
Volume30 ~ 45 ml a shot200 ~ 350 ml a cup
ExtractionNear-boiling water, high pressure in a short timeHot water, gravity and longer time
Brew time25 to 35 seconds2 to 4 minutes
Drinking styleOn its own, add milk (Latte, Cappuccino, etc) or water (Americano)Black coffee only. Not suitable to add milk
TasteIntense, bold and richMilder, more intricate flavours of the coffee origin
BodyThick and full bodiedSmooth, rounded and clean body
CostRelatively highRelatively low

Is espresso better than filter coffee, since it’s more “intense, bold and rich”? No, not really. Neither is better or worse than another. It’s more a matter of preference. Most people have tasted an espresso-based drinks before in a cafe, but not everyone has tasted a good cup of filter coffee. I suggest you to try one at your local cafe to before you judge!

Major considerations

There are a few questions to be answered before we proceed further:

Unless you are already a coffee enthusiast willing to spend a good money and effort, the questions above usually lead to the following triangle – you can only achieve 2 of them, realistically:

The dilemma

Money / CostMany of us grew up with instant coffee which is cheap. When it comes to the real cost of making a good cup of latte at home, people are surprised by how expensive an espresso machine is. A basic filter coffee set will cost you about RM100 only but together with grinder, it can go up to RM350. A basic and decent espresso machine (that makes real espresso, not capsule machines like Nespresso) will cost at least RM2500.
EffortMaking coffee is not that difficult but to make GOOD coffee, it takes practice. If you like your coffee served by an automatic one-click button, you either have to spend a lot for a good automatic machine, or you have to lower your taste expectations.
TasteYou can expect cafe-level latte or filter coffee ONLY if you’re willing to put in effort to learn and optimize your brewing, or you spend a lot on a good dummy-proof machine, or ideally, BOTH.

Seems tough… How do I even start?

Don’t let the above discourage you. This is why I have created a simple yet detailed guideline which covers most possible scenarios of cost vs. effort vs. taste. Hit one of the links below for my recommendations!

Entry to Filter Coffee